Many people, understandably, don’t want to think about writing a will. Not only does it require confronting uncomfortable subject matter (which is to say, one’s own mortality), but it can be a tedious and lengthy process as well. Going over all your property and figuring out who it should go to when you die is unpleasant in every sense of the word… but it’s not nearly as unpleasant as the alternative.
When someone dies without a valid will, their estate falls into something known as intestacy. When your estate passes by intestacy, one or more of your heirs will need to apply to the County Surrogate to administer your estate and divide up your property in accordance with the applicable laws governing intestacy in your state. In New Jersey, the spouse has the first priority, but if there is no surviving spouse, the decedent’s children all have equal priority and must jointly agree to decide who will administer the estate. An application for administration must be made to the Court if the heirs of equal priority cannot agree who will be the administrator.
Intestacy generally means your property will be divided among your spouse and children in some fashion, or among other family members of a set priority if you don’t have a surviving spouse or children. This one-size-fits-all approach to dividing up property does not necessarily fit all situations, since people you might want to inherit your property may be left in the cold (or, just as bad, people you have no relationship with may inherit property you don’t want them to have).
If that sounds like a nightmare scenario to you, then there is one way for certain to prevent it: write a will. It may be unpleasant now, but it will be far better than leaving a mess of intestate property for your family, the Surrogate and the probate court to clean up after you’re gone. The attorneys at Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney, P.A., will help you put together an estate plan that is right for you, including helping you to write a will that will cover all your bases. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (or use our contact us form), and we will reply as quickly as possible. You can also reach us by phone at (973) 256-0456.